Byrne v. FiskAnnotate this Case
Douglas Byrne appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Vera Fisk regarding Byrne's premises-liability negligence claim against Fisk. In December 2018, Byrne was a mail carrier working for the United States Postal Service. That evening, Byrne was responsible for a delivery route different from his usual route. Byrne attempted to deliver mail to Fisk's residence in Huntsville. Although Fisk's home was not on his usual delivery route, Byrne had likely delivered mail there before, including within the preceding year. It was dark outside, and it was raining. Fisk's porch lights were not turned on, but Byrne was wearing a headlamp, which was on at the time. Byrne was also wearing slip- resistant boots, as required by his employer. Byrne traversed the five tiled steps leading to Fisk's tiled front porch, where her mailbox was located. According to Byrne's testimony, he was holding the handrail and being careful. However, Byrne slipped and fell backward down the steps. Byrne suffered three fractures in his right femur and a fracture in his hip socket. He was hospitalized for nine days, underwent multiple weeks of rehabilitation, and returned to work in May 2019. In December 2020, Byrne commenced this action against Fisk and fictitiously named parties. Byrne alleged that there were defects in Fisk's premises about which Fisk knew or should have known and that Fisk should have remedied the defects or should have warned him about or guarded him from the defects. Byrne's complaint asserted a negligence claim and a "wantonness/recklessness" claim. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether a defect or unreasonably dangerous condition existed on Fisk's premises; whether Fisk had knowledge of the alleged defect; whether the alleged defect proximately caused Byrne's injuries; and whether the darkness of Fisk's premises or the rainfall present there constituted open and obvious hazards. Consequently, the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in favor of Fisk. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings.